The hidden gem of Bosnia Herzegovina is a traveller’s delight.
Snuggled in the midst of the Balkans, this country is just creeping onto the tourist radar and as such, prices are still low, crowds are still thin and the scenery is truly spectacular.
Of course, no one can discuss visiting this country and not touch on the tragic violence and conflict that befell this nation in the nineties.
Indeed, visiting Bosnia Herzegovina does offer travellers a unique opportunity to learn more about this tumultuous time from the many people who lived through it.
But it’s not all doom and gloom, for Bosnia has some of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve encountered in Europe, some of the friendliest people and some of the most delicious craft beers.
So read on to discover everything you need to know about travelling Bosnia Herzegovina from someone whose been there, done it, LOVED it!
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#1 Money & Currency
The currency in Bosnia Herzegovina is the Mark – denoted by the symbol KM.
It’s benchmarked against the euro at a rate of 2:1, which means prices across the country are stabilised.
Many businesses in Bosnia Herzegovina only accept KM – not Euros – so it’s definitely worth getting hold of some as soon as you enter the country or beforehand if you’re travelling across the border from a neighbouring nation such as Serbia.
Failing that, ATM’s are widespread in this country and accept both Visa and Mastercard.
Just bear in mind when backpacking Bosnia that many ATM’s will charge you a flat fee of around 5€ per transaction to withdraw cash here.
So, if you are using an ATM, it’s worth making 1 big withdrawal, rather than lots of separate ones to avoid wasting your money!
Alternatively, hunt around until you find a bank that doesn’t charge you!
To avoid any further charges, I recommend getting a Wise card, which I always use on my travels because there are no sneaky transaction fees AND they offer great exchange rates.
#2 Visas for Bosnia
While not yet part of the EU, and therefore the Schengen zone, those from countries within the EU don’t generally need visas for travel in Bosnia though, of course, your passport will be stamped as a result.
For those with a Schengen visa, normally entry into Bosnia Herzegovina is accepted easily and for free at the border.
Always check your individual visas requirements before entering a county however.
#3 Entry Points to the Country
I crossed into Bosnia from Serbia via a long, but very beautiful bus ride from Belgrade.
Check out the great website Busbud to book tickets online for bus transport across Bosnia and the Balkans more broadly.
Otherwise, the international airport, in the capital Sarajevo, offers international flights, although sadly they are not as cheap as we’d all hope!
You may actually be better flying to Dubrovnik, Belgrade, or Podgorica (capital of Montenegro) and then crossing into Bosnia via land.
As always, do check Skyscanner – my number 1 tool when it comes to finding cheap flights.
#4 When to Visit?
High season in Bosnia is during the summer season of May through September.
This is when prices are highest for travelling Bosnia, but the weather is the best too!
If you want to avoid the main crowds, then visit during the months on either side of this high season.
If you don’t want to meet any other tourists, come in the winter months, but do be prepared for rain, wind, cold and possibly snow!
#5 Cost of Bosnian Travel
Even in the high summer season, Bosnia Herzegovina is still an incredibly-priced place to travel in European terms.
Yup, one of the cheapest places in the region, you can easily get by here on around €40 euros a day if you sleep in dorm beds and are careful with your spending.
Hostel kitchens generally mean you can cheaply prepare food and local transport costs next to nothing!
Always make sure taxis are on meters, or prices are agreed in advance, to avoid getting ripped off and don’t forget to haggle on day trip prices if you are part of a group or travelling in the offseason.
#6 Best Places to Visit
If you have more time, your own transport or a good sense of adventure, I’d certainly recommend visiting some places in the countryside around these cities too, where life is dramatically different and the countryside dramatically breathtaking.
Check out these top-rated day trips to other parts of the country…
#7 Ideal Bosnia Itinerary
I spent 6 days travelling Bosnia… and wish I’d had more time!
Here was my itinerary:
Day 1: Arrive Sarajevo, Visit City Museums, Churches and Park
Day 2: Join Sarajevo Free Walking Tour, Explore Old Part of the City, Souk and Lookout Points
Day 3: Trip to the Old Bobsleigh Track via Cable Car and Hiking
There are also many other day trips you can enjoy from Sarajevo. Learn more in my guide to this city here.
Day 1: Arrive Mostar, Enjoy Evening Free Walking Tour
Day 2: Get up early to snap the Stari Most Bridge without the tourists, Explore other parts of the city including Museums and Lookout Points
Day 3: Herzegovina Day Trip to Blagaj, Počitelj and Kravice Waterfalls
I absolutely loved my time in Mostar. Discover why in my guide to this city here.
#8 Best Budget Accommdation
In Sarajevo, I recommend the Infinity Boutique Hostel.
I loved the central location of this hostel and the staff were super friendly and helpful. Comfortable and clean, this was a great place to meet other solo travellers.
If you’d prefer a bit more comfort then the Hotel Family Sarajevo comes highly recommended, otherwise for self-catering accommodation, this entire apartment in the city centre is top-rated and a great find!
In Mostar, I recommend Musala.
The gorgeous owner here, Sasa, is a wealth of local knowledge and will go out of his way to impart his top tips and recommendations, as well as help you organise onward transport and tours.
#9 How to Get Around
Buses and trains are both common in Bosnia – especially between Sarajevo and Mostar, the main centres of tourist activity.
In fact between these 2 destinations runs, arguably, one of the most picturesque train rides in the whole of Europe and it operates twice a day.
Otherwise, local buses run more frequently between the 2 cities and can be booked either at the station or online.
I recommend Busbud for this purpose.
Both buses and trains are amazingly cheap – ideal for those of us backpacking Bosnia – but I’d suggest booking tickets at least 1 day in advance as seats do fill up.
The Sarajevo to Mostar journey takes around 3 hours by bus and the scenery is spectacular.
#10 What to Pack for Bosnia Travels?
The time of year you are heading to Bosnia Herzegovina will greatly influence what you should pack.
Summers here can be sweltering whilst winters can bring snow.
It’s also worth noting that the climate varies quite wildly between the 2 major cities of Sarajevo and Mostar – the latter of which has a more Mediterranean climate and less harsh winters, but scorching summers.
Most of your time in Bosnia is likely to be spent sightseeing in cities, so do bring some comfortable walking shoes.
My New Balance runners were perfect for the job.
In addition, Bosnia Herzegovina boasts some amazing hiking opportunities in the spring and autumn, as well as excellent skiing opportunities in the winter.
Bring relevant clothing if you want to enjoy either of these pursuits.
Other top items, I’d recommend if you plan to travel Bosnia Herzegovina include:
- Bradt Bosnia Herzegovina Guidebook
- Natural Sun Screen
- Sun Hat
- Natural Insect Repellent
- Hand Sanitiser
- Warm Jacket and Scarf if you’re travelling during the colder months
- Sony A6000 which I use for all my travels and love, not least because it’s light, compact and robust!
- New Balance Trainers that are perfect for stylish city strolling, I love mine!
- Metal water bottle that you can refill as you go, because Bosnian tap water is drinkable… and free!
- Bobby Anti Theft Backpack which is perfect for helping you avoid pickpockets!
#11 Getting a SIM Card
One great thing to know if you’re travelling Bosnia is that tourist SIM cards are easy and cheap to obtain.
In fact, there are several telecommunication companies here that have designated tourist SIM packages – meaning they last for a short period of time, but are very cost-effective as a result.
I went with M-Tel (mostly because this was the one I found first!) and paid 10 KM (5€) for a 15 day SIM Card with 10GB worth of data – a bargain in my book!
SIM cards are available from tobacco kiosks, but I always like to go the actual phone company shop as, generally, employees there speak English and can ensure your phone is set up properly with instructions in a language you can understand!
#12 Learning about the History
Bosnia has a fascinating, complex and scary history that travelling here allows you to learn about.
Conquered and ruled by the Ottomans for over 400 years, the influence of this Empire still exists and I found many similarities between Bosnia and Turkey, not least in the food, coffee and predominant Islamic religion.
After this, it was the turn of the Austro-Hungarians, until the rule of Yugoslavia and the unique brand of communism / socialism long-term leader Tito established in the Balkans.
Then, with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the breakup of the Yugoslav Republic, disaster struck and, just as Bosnia asserted its independence as a sovereign nation, civil war ripped the country apart.
Just 23 years since the end of the conflict, the scars and memories of that time are as raw as the bullet holes still visible in many of the buildings across this nation.
Talking to those who lived through this period of violence is a privileged way to gain a direct, albeit subjective, insight into this recent history and to shockingly realise the violence and tragedy that befall this small nation and its people.
#13 Bosnian Culture
Straddling the cultural boundary between East and West, Bosnia is a rich and fascinating place to visit with influences coming from both Europe and the Middle East.
Mosques, churches and synagogues all sit within a few streets of each other here and the food / drink in Bosnia has a distinctly Turkish feel to it, thanks to the long reign of the Ottomans here.
There’s also vibrant street markets across the country that wouldn’t feel out of place in the Middle East and they jostle alongside modern shopping malls in a wonderful mix of old and new.
Having applied to become part of the EU, Bosnia is yet to gain access to this community, but there’s no doubt it’s certainly trying to head in this direction.
#14 People & Language
Bosnian people are very friendly and relaxed.
If you need any help, just ask and you’re likely to find people are more than willing to point you in the right direction.
Help is especially easy to find because many people here, especially the younger generation, speak excellent English.
In general, people in Bosnia are chilled, with much time given over to drinking coffee and catching up with friends.
Bosnian people also have an amazingly down-to-earth culture and their ability to shrug off misfortune or laugh at the ironies of the world is brilliant!
People in Bosnia speak Bosnian.
Although they all have different names (for political reasons), it’s worth noting that Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian, Montenegrin etc are, essentially, are very similar languages!
Both Latin and Cyrillic scripts are used.
#15 Travel Safety
In general, I found Bosnia Hercegovina a very safe country to travel in as a solo female and walking around the cities, even during the evening, I always felt secure.
That said, I always take out travel insurance when I go anywhere.
World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while travelling and claim online from anywhere in the world.
Alternatively, if you’re a long-term traveller, digital nomad or frequent remote worker seeking travel health cover, check out Safetywing’s Nomad Insurance policies.
Forget tea in Bosnia, this is the land of coffee!
Turkish at that!
Also good to know if you’re travelling in Bosnia is that tap water is drinkable, bottled water is cheap and beer is good.
There are many commercial Bosnian beers, which are super cheap to buy, and also some wonderful craft numbers that are cropping up, especially in Sarajevo.
My favourite has to be Gelender Rasta Beer, but I definitely recommend trying a few!
Food in Bosnia isn’t the most elegant, but it is delicious… if you’re a meat-eater that is.
For us vegetarians, it’s one of the least friendly countries sadly, but the good coffee thankfully makes up for it!
Burek is popular here, as it is across the Balkans, and is essentially a savoury pastry normally filled with a) cheese, b) cheese and spinach or c) meat.
Ćevapi is the national dish of Bosnia and is comprised of small beef or lamb sausages made from grilled minced meat and served with sour cream or Kajmak (almost like a soft, tangy cheese) and onions in a kebab-like form with a flatbread folded in half.
Dolma are also popular – essentially stuffed vine leaves, but nearly always with meat – and desserts such as baklava complete the spectrum of food influences.
#18 What to Wear in Bosnia
Bosnia is a predominantly Muslim country, but dress standards in Bosnia Herzegovina are still fairly relaxed and, as a female tourist, you certainly won’t have to worry about a headscarf, or about covering your shoulders or knees.
In the summer here it gets super hot, meaning during my visit in early September I wore denim shorts and singlets, which were totally fine.
Men can be equally relaxed in terms of dress.
The only exception to this is, of course, when entering any mosque, church or Synagogue.
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Are you planning on backpacking Bosnia Herzegovina too?
Or maybe you have been already?
What are your top tips?
If there’s anything you think I’ve missed, please do let me know in the comments below…